Every year, winter takes me by surprise.

It’s in the driving, of course, that first time I hit the brakes and hope the snow tires actually work. And that comes after the howl of outrage when I emerge from the house and spot the snowdrift on the car roof. (Of course, I’d heard the weather report on CBC. And of course, I’d noticed the snow through the patio door. But the car! Not the car!) And where is that snow brush again?

But I wasn’t thinking about driving when I started writing this. I was thinking about how every year I have to relearn the art of winter dressing.

Take my walk to the drugstore, for example. It’s an easy 10-minute jaunt. In summer. But the other day, facing my first real bout with winter, it took me longer to get ready than it did to walk to the store.

As autumn gives way to winter, I really notice the cold, so any outing starts with an intense moment with the weather app. Hmmm… a bit windy; -3 C, feels like -8 C. The latter should be helpful, but only if you know what -8 C feels like, which I don’t. I am pretty certain this would rate as a mild day in January, but my November brain imagines the worst.

I’ll need warm tights under my jeans. I head to the bedroom and rummage through a dresser drawer. I will probably need my heavy hoodie too, right? so I need a long-sleeved shirt to go under it. I rummage through the closet.

I am already feeling the extra warmth as I head downstairs, so I decide to haul all necessary items to the hallway for ultimate efficiency. Winter jacket. Warm scarf. Toque. Gloves. Purse. (Oh, and does this purse have a mask? Check.) And where’s my cellphone?

Shoes or boots? I peer out the front window. The sidewalk seems clear, but would shoes be warm enough? Boots are better. This requires a quick trip to the rack in the basement.

Back in the hallway, I contemplate my trusty pile. OK, what’s the best order here? Warmest items should be last, but what would that be? Not a clue. I decide the boots should go first while I can still bend at the waist. I plop into a chair and pull them on.

The toque, new this year, seems like a logical next step. But it has a decorative thingie in the front. In other words, it has to be straight or I’ll look like a goof. This requires a trip to the bathroom so I can fiddle in front of the mirror. The scarf is probably next – it’s in the hallway. But now I’ve managed to lasso the hood on my hoodie. Back to the bathroom. And what to do with the ends of the scarf? I decide to tuck them into my hoodie for extra warmth. Unzip, adjust, adjust again, up-zip.

OK. Ready for the coat. Back to the hallway. As I zip it up, my scarf seems to slip sideways. Back to the bathroom. Looks fine, but I am now getting hot (and not in a fashionable sense). Hurry up!

Gloves. OH wait, and I need my purse. In summer, slipping the strap over my neck would be easy but in winter? Back to the bathroom to untangle it from the hood on my coat.

Now for the gloves. Oh, and my shopping bag, which hangs in the basement stairwell.

Finally, FINALLY, I am ready.

My layers work surprisingly well, and I am pleased with myself as I saunter up the street. Then I get to the drugstore. And contemplate putting on a mask. Bad enough that I face the usual fight to manoeuvre it under my glasses, but now I also have to wrestle the straps up under my toque. I slip into a nearby bus shelter and set my shopping bag, gloves and glasses on a seat. I roll up the sides of my toque, push my hair out of the way, twist the mask over my ears, pull my hair back down and unfold the toque. As I gather my things, I notice a man seated nearby seems to be watching out of the side of his eyes, but look at that little smile! He’s clearly impressed by my winter attire.

Now I am really warm. Just in time to go into the store. Unzip that coat.

My glasses fog up as soon as I step inside. I squeeze the mask’s nosepiece tighter before unzipping various coat pockets searching for my glasses cleaning cloth.

As I walk home, I decide to read up on the lives of bears.

Wouldn’t hibernation make for the ultimate winter? First you get to eat yourself silly for a month or so to bulk up (maybe I could even develop a taste for helpful foods like poutine!) Then you snuggle in someplace warm although I think I’d want to trade that bear-cave for a bed adorned by a cat or two. Then in spring you emerge, ravenous, and eat yourself silly until gardening season. Perfect!


2 thoughts on “The fine, fine art of winter dressing

  1. I agree. And so many people look at me the same way when I struggle to put my mask on, getting it tied up in my hair or my scarf or my ears or over my eyes. Great sentiments and great writing Kathy! Barb


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